DECONSTRUCTING THE WORLD
DECONSTRUCTING THE SELF
The Human Mind
The Human Being
Humans are the last surviving species of hominids, which means we are unique in many ways. We are the only truly up-right walking creatures. We are the only creature which uses its brain as its main weapon of survival. We are the only creature which crafts stone tools. We are the only creature with free hands capable of fine motor skills. We are also the only primate with no fur, as well as the only ape able to swim. But, what makes us truly unique on this planet is our cultural sentience.
Every living creature is sentient, which means it is aware of itself and reacts to outside stimuli. Basic sentience is being alive, but not much more. Creatures without a brain (bacteria, protists, many animals, plants and fungi) have basic sentience. Intelligent singularity sentience evolved due to the development of the eye, as certain animals evolved a sentience organ which could process the in-coming sensory data, as well as do something about it. Intelligent singularity sentience sparked the mortal combat of the animal arms race around 542 million years ago and it has been thriving and evolving ever since.
The brain is a sentience organ, and they all work relatively the same. The in-coming data is filtered by the mind and then displayed as a virtual reality before the psyche in the helm. The psyche acts as the singularity through cognition as it monitors the display, decides what to do about it, acts accordingly using the nervous system to manipulate the body, and remembers the results to learn for next time.
The virtual reality and the psyche are dominated by the mental spectrum, which is made of seven realms. Each realm deals with a facet of being for the creature. The animal dwells in the unconscious of the lower mind and deals with macro autopoiesis (needs like oxygen and food). The id dwells in the subconscious of the lower mind and deals with macro reproduction (sexual urges). The body dwells in the preconscious of the lower mind and deals with micro autopoiesis (or the body of flesh which is worn by the consciousness). The consciousness dwells in the center and deals with micro sentience (or cognition in the real world). The ego dwells in the preconscious of the upper mind and deals with micro reproduction (or the individual in the world). The umwelt dwells in the subconscious of the upper mind and deals with all the mezzo-level facets (or the world of the individual). The collective unconscious dwells in the unconscious of the upper mind and deals with macro sentience (genetic behaviors, or instincts). The collective unconscious dominates the minds of intelligent singularity sentient creatures, which means a creature behaves like what it is (a centipede acts like a centipede, a squid acts like a squid, and a fish acts like a fish).
Erudite singularity sentience is found in both birds and mammals whose young must learn certain specific behaviors from their parents. Instead of having all behaviors based on genes, the collective unconscious of birds and mammals has some holes in it which allows the creature to learn environmentally specific behaviors in order to have a survival edge. Learning enlarges their umwelt, and creatures with an enlarged umwelt have been very successful. Most mammals have a more complex brain than birds, but there are some mammals with a pronounced individuality. Primates, elephants, whales and dolphins have enlarged egos (or a complex erudite singularity sentience).
Some insects have a collective (or hive) sentience, where all the individual multi-cellular organisms in the hive share the same genes. The individuals of the hive act as a single organism (or a multi-organism collective). Most singularity sentient creatures have an umwelt in their subconscious of the upper mind, but the hive replaces the umwelt with a superego which acts as a collective mind, so all the creatures of the collective act as one. Ants still act like ants (due to their collective unconscious), but their actions are always for the good of their hive (due to their superego) including self-sacrifice. Only collective sentient insects and humans have a superego. Whereas insects have no sense of ego, humans added a collective sentience to their already highly-complex ego, and changed into something new.
Homo erectus appeared around two million years ago. They quickly became top predator and soon spread across the eastern hemisphere. Around 400,000 years ago, erectus was robust and even evolving into various neanderloids in several places. Erectus and the neanderloids were already pre-cultural since they had to learn tool crafting, sign language, shelter constructing and fire building, but they still acted like hominines. They had an enlarged umwelt and ego, since all hominines are highly erudite and highly complex, but like all other singularity sentient creatures, erectus and the neanderloids were dominated by their collective unconscious. Our ancestors took a different path.
We know erectus was in Indonesia at this time because of Java Man. All of Indonesia was connected to Southwest Asia because the Mindel ice age had lowered sea-levels. Only the thin straits of the Banda Sea united the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The tropics thrive during ice ages due to the condensed life, and the Banda Sea was tempting enough to lure a band of aquaphobic primates into the water, as a small band of erectus began to harvest the bounty of the sea.
Eventually, their genetic hunter-gatherer behaviors were replaced by new learned marine behaviors (such as swimming, spoken language, specific fine motor skills and fishing techniques). The erudite information in their shared umwelt grew too large for the genetic collective unconscious (too many holes). Their subconscious wrested control of the mind around 275,000 years ago to become a superego of a cultural sentience. It had only taken around 125,000 years for our marine ancestors to become fully human (Homo sapiens). They had adapted to their new environment mentally before they could genetically (although we still have the dainty bodies, webbed digits, no fur, and a swimming proficiency with an air-tight nose). Their superego had usurped their collective unconscious, and there was no going back.
The human superego acts as part of a collective, but it is different from a hive superego. In both cases the superego takes over the mind, but in hive sentience the superego overwhelms the ego (eclipsing individuality), while in cultural sentience the superego overwhelms the collective unconscious (eclipsing instincts). Humans still have instincts, but they are hollow and filled by the superego. In a hive, individual insects act like cells in a body, whereas cultural sentience values individuality (since it evolved in complex creatures). Also, the hive superego is created from an inside source (genetics), whereas the human superego comes from an outside source (a culture).
Cultural sentience is based on a culture, and a culture is more than just a collection of behaviors and beliefs particular to a specific tribe; it makes us what we are. The culture inside your superego gives form to your world, as well as gives you your identity, but most importantly it is also an amazing evolutionary leap. All our ancestors wanted was to partake in a maritime bounty, and as a consequence became the first creature to free their minds from their genes.
Humans do not behave like humans; humans behave like their tribe; and each tribe has its own culture. For Richard Dawkins, cultures are made up of memes (as oppose to genes). He combined the word ‘genes’ with mimetismos (which is Greek for “something imitated”). Like genes, memes encompass every aspect of human life from minor behaviors (such as eating, drinking, sleeping, working, relaxing and hygiene) to major behaviors (such as language, leadership, technology, trade and rituals). All these lesser memes are organized into five greater memes.
Since the culture dwells in the subconscious of the upper mind (the superego), it deals with all the mezzo-level facets of being: mezzo autopoiesis (economics), mezzo reproduction (sociality), mezzo sentience (politics), and mezzo evolution (knowledge). Religion deals with macro sentience and is uniquely human. Together they form the five greater memes of any particular culture.
The greater meme of economics is the distribution of food, drink, goods and services throughout the tribe. Since the advent of civilization, it has become a tempting target of manipulation because those who gain control of the economy are able to raise their standard of living by acquiring more of the distribution. Over the last 2500 years, the principal unit of exchange has been money, which was invented to make transactions easier than trading.
Money is a major meme. It is a unit of the total distribution of the tribe. In barter, sustenance is traded for sustenance. Money has no intrinsic value other than the value granted by the tribe (you cannot eat it), but money has become an important and highly complex major meme within economics. At first, it was based on precious metals, until recently when it was transformed into paper, and then it went electronic.
The greater meme of politics is the forum in which leaders pilot the tribe through history. For most of our history, the forum has been dominated by warlords who took control of their society by force or inherited it from someone who had, but there has been a movement away from force in recent times. Apart from leadership, other major political memes deal with law, public works, protection and emergency relief.
The greater meme of sociality is a broad collection of relationships within the culture. The major memes within sociality are familial relationships, social relationships, organizations, morality, language, art, scope, sexuality and education. As primates, sociality has always been significant. The other greater memes (politics, economics, knowledge and religion) are an extension of sociality, and were not of much consequence until the population growth and area expansion brought about by civilization.
Family relationships have always been of extreme importance to all human cultures, as they are at the core of all primate tribes. The family is the smallest tribe within the tribe, and is the primary agent of erudition. The minor memes of family relationships determine who may marry whom, how many one can marry, whose clan they should live with, how many children they should have, male or female lineages, inheritance, how to raise a child, and the proper roles of each member in relation to the other members.
Social relationships are extremely important on the individual level, as these are the customs of non-familial relationships with friends and acquaintances. Organizations pertain to the individual in the world as it encompasses vocation, gathering with peers, and gathering together to advocate particular memes.
Morality is based on the human need to belong. Membership in the tribe requires one to master the complex matrix of traditions which have evolved within that particular tribe. What is considered virtuous, normal and abhorrent behavior has been impressed on the individual through the process of immersion into the tribe. The initiate is conditioned to behave in a certain manner by a process of rewards for virtuous behavior, punishment for abhorrent behavior and acceptance for normal behavior. Each individual may belong to many subcultures and their moral codes may differ, thus causing a dilemma.
Art comes from the human desire to communicate feelings, beauty and ideas through sensual mediums. Art is the manipulation of our world to convey these concepts. The medium can be anything from a painting on a cave wall, to music, to literature. Humans have a highly developed artistic ability. Art also reflects the mood of a society. It is a good indicator of a healthy or decrepit culture.
Languages have been co-evolving with the human species since Indonesia. All species communicate amongst themselves, but humans have evolved with the ability to do so through a complex system of vocalizations, gesticulations and expressions which transmit highly complex thoughts and feelings. Every human language is a sophisticated means of labeling the world for communication purposes. Language becomes a part of the mind, thus yoking the mind to the culture.
Scope is our self-interest expanded to include others, such as family, friends, tribe and nation. Inclusion leads to altruism and self-sacrifice. Unfortunately, inclusion also leads to exclusion, which is the human trait of limiting our tribe (us versus them). All of the usual ways to separate humans from humans come from this major meme. Gender, race, ethnicity, language, class and nationality are just some of the ways in which we set boundaries.
Sexuality is closely related to family relationships and morality, but it is separate due to its importance. Humans have the wonderful ability to reproduce at will, as we are not constrained by natural cycles like other animals, thus we are constantly battling our id (unlike other animals). Sexuality includes the virtuous, normal and abhorrent morality of sexual practices, as well as the responsibilities of procreation.
Education is the secondary agent of erudition, and is important for the good of the individual as well as the good of the tribe. The individual is rewarded by not having to start from scratch, as they are able to learn the knowledge gained from their culture’s struggle to survive, while the tribe gains another contributor (and the culture gains another adherent). Education is not necessarily formal. It can be any pedagogy from an uncle teaching hunting skills, to a professor teaching calculus, to the tacit behaviors learned from observation.
The greater meme of knowledge has evolved from our hominine ancestry, as we have come a long way from a hominid species learning how to survive on the Savanna. Our knowledge about the world is now quite stupendous, and yet there is still much to learn. The major memes within knowledge are technology, gnosis, philosophy and science. Technology has always dominated knowledge, at first with gnosis, then with philosophy for some civilizations, and now with modern science.
Technology is our ability to manipulate the material world through the utilization of tools. Human mental evolution would not have been possible without tools. Our unique hyper-complex mind is a product of our tool using and tool crafting abilities. Our early hominine ancestors survived by continually fashioning more complex and specialized tools, thus beginning our mental co-evolution with them. From the axe to the computer, from setting fires to nuclear power, and from the wheel to the highway system, we have certainly learned how to manipulate the material world. Our technology has become Space Age in recent times, and what we do with our technology hinges on our culture.
Science is the exploration and investigation of the material world, from taste-testing food edibility to looking through space-based telescopes. The efforts of exploration and investigation are well documented, either orally or written, in order for others to follow. These detectives expect to be followed by others who may doubt their claims, and they make decisions by consensus. Modern science has dominated knowledge for the last 500 years, but true science can be as diverse as a midwife looking for a certain root, to an explorer sailing into uncharted waters, to a biologist looking into a microscope.
Philosophy has more to do with what is done with the knowledge than the actual collection of data. Reason and logic are applied to our knowledge to make sense of the world in an orderly fashion. The world is subjected to the rationality of the human mind through careful contemplation. Philosophy is an open forum to all who have been grappling with that age old question, “What the fuck is going on?!”
Gnosis is spirituality, which is separated into the major memes of external gnosis and internal gnosis. External gnosis was the first way in which humans tried to understand how the world works, and deals directly with spirit beings and magick. Spirit beings appear in all shapes and sizes in every culture from ghosts to nature spirits. Magick is a process in which the life-force of nature can be harnessed for a predetermined effect in the material world. Internal gnosis has to do with the spiritual and psychic abilities which may be tapped with the human mind through the supraconscious. Gnosis and religion were yoked together early in human history, but it is important to separate the knowledge gained from gnosis and the social aspects of religion.
The greater meme of religion consists of two major memes: myths and rituals. A myth is a living narrative in which the adherents are participants, and their tale is part of the saga. The rituals and ceremonies are ways in which the tribe celebrates being a part of that living narrative. There is a fellowship which comes from gathering together with like-minded individuals. This communion is relieving, as it is reassuring to know there are others who perceive the world as you do. The rituals and ceremonies are steeped in the myths, but they also include calendar events and the rites of passage through the stages of development.
Religion is uniquely human. When the superego usurped the collective unconscious, it needed to fill the hole in the macro sentience because the collective unconscious tells us what to do via our instincts (and they are done without question). Unfortunately, the subconscious of the upper mind only deals with the mezzo-level facets of being, so humans invented religion (myths and rituals) to replace the lost instincts. The stories convey the collected wisdom and knowledge of the tribe, and they are told with authority and sincerity, so of course they are believed. The myths and rituals of religion legitimate the whole culture because they occupy the unconscious of the upper mind, thus turning the whole culture instinctual (and obeyed without question).
All the memes of a culture are stored in the superegos of its adherents. Their superegos were constructed through immersion and indoctrination. Human children join a culture already in progress. They do not have to learn how to survive on their own, but they do have to learn the culture they inhabit. Any human child can absorb any human culture, but it is ultimately limited by exposure (immersion). The indoctrination process begins at birth and could last up to two decades. It consists of socialization (physical conditioning) and enculturation (mental conditioning).
Socialization is the morality major meme of sociality. Socialization is the primate tribal use of punishment, acceptance and reward to reinforce its will. It is the tribe acting like a singularity (like a hive). Acceptance is the norm, the rewards can be quite grand, but humans are animals so the punishments can be quite aggressive (from shunning and shaming, to imprisonment and banishment, to torture and execution).
Enculturation is the education major meme of sociality. Enculturation is uniquely human since it involves the growth and development of the superego in the individual. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann saw enculturation in two stages. The first stage begins at birth as our young learn their culture from their family, which they do by observation and imitation. The second stage is formal education, as our young learn skills for survival. The length of the enculturation varies from culture to culture, and there is usually a ceremony celebrating its completion (as it is the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood).
Language is the principle vector of enculturation. Language is the first cultural skill we must master. We think in language (or narratization, which is uniquely human). Any language can be learned, but only the adherents have a tacit understanding of the culture through a shared semiotics. In other words, your language labels your world, but the labels are not just words and names, they also have a constantly evolving complex system of nuances and underlying meanings. All of the adherents of a culture recognize them without thinking. If you understand the language, then you understand the culture.
Adherents seem to behave and believe alike, but they are not exactly alike because the indoctrination process is filtered by the unique self of each individual. All the adherents have the same cultural memes stored in their superegos, so they live in the same world, but they also add their uniqueness to the whole because the adherent has a unique perspective (which blends their cultural memes with their unique genes and unique circumstances). The culture is in the adherent, and the adherent is in the culture.
Individuality can be as complex as the culture allows. There are many variables within the memes of every culture to allow for even greater individuality (from the complex conservative-liberal spectrum to the simple like-dislike). There are also alternative memes (from slightly different to radically different) which have adherents. The variable and alternative memes create subcultures within the culture with their own groups, organizations and associations. Most support the status quo, but a few have the potential to lead to change within the culture (like genetic mutations), and they can be viewed as threats by the orthodox adherents of the dominant memes within the culture.
For Thomas Kuhn, the dominant memes of the culture are paradigms. Cultures are made from a complex system of major and minor paradigms within the five greater paradigms. Different cultures have different paradigms because different tribes have different ways of doing the same things. The paradigms have become interdependent within the culture (like a super-cell organism), so change within is most difficult. A robust paradigm has many adherents, but they can be weakened by decadence, catastrophe or a better way discovered. A languid paradigm can be replaced by another in a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift occurs when a variable or alternative meme usurps the dominant meme (becoming the new paradigm) by popular opinion or by force. Paradigm shifts allow the culture to adapt to changing circumstances and evolve (and survive in the cultural environment).
Next Chapter: Cultural Evolution